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Hardcover | $37.00 Short | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780262013918 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 in | March 2010

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The Tuning of Place

Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media


How do pervasive digital devices—smartphones, iPods, GPS navigation systems, and cameras, among others—influence the way we use spaces? In The Tuning of Place, Richard Coyne argues that these ubiquitous devices and the networks that support them become the means of making incremental adjustments within spaces—of tuning place. Pervasive media help us formulate a sense of place, writes Coyne, through their capacity to introduce small changes, in the same way that tuning a musical instrument invokes the subtle process of recalibration. Places are inhabited spaces, populated by people, their concerns, memories, stories, conversations, encounters, and artifacts. The tuning of place—whereby people use their devices in their interactions with one another—is also a tuning of social relations.

The range of ubiquity is vast—from the familiar phones and handheld devices through RFID tags, smart badges, dynamic signage, microprocessors in cars and kitchen appliances, wearable computing, and prosthetics, to devices still in development. Rather than catalog achievements and predictions, Coyne offers a theoretical framework for discussing pervasive media that can inform developers, designers, and users as they contemplate interventions into the environment. Processes of tuning can lead to consideration of themes highly relevant to pervasive computing: intervention, calibration, wedges, habits, rhythm, tags, taps, tactics, thresholds, aggregation, noise, and interference.

About the Author

Richard Coyne is Professor and Chair of Architectural Computing, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (1995), Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (2001), and Cornucopia Limited: Design and Dissent on the Internet (2005), all published by the MIT Press.

Table of Contents

  • The Tuning of Place
  • The Tuning of Place
  • Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media
  • Richard Coyne
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • ©
  • 2010
  • Richard Coyne
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please e-mail special_sales
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Coyne, Richard.
  • The tuning of place : sociable spaces and pervasive digital media / Richard Coyne.
  • p.
  • cm.

  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01391-8 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Ubiquitous computing.
  • 2. Mobile computing.
  • 3. Online social networks.
I. Title.

  • QA76.5915.C695
  • 2010

  • 006.7'54—dc22
  • 2009033440
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1

  • To Kathleen
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • ix

  • Introduction
  • xiii

  • Temperament
  • 1

  • 1
  • Intervention
  • 3

  • 2
  • Calibration
  • 19

  • 3
  • Wedge
  • 47

  • Everyday
  • 71

  • 4
  • Habit
  • 73

  • 5
  • Rhythm
  • 91

  • 6
  • Tags
  • 107

  • 7
  • Taps
  • 129

  • Commonplace
  • 141

  • 8
  • Tactics
  • 143

  • 9
  • Threshold
  • 169

  • 10
  • Aggregation
  • 187

  • 11
  • Noise
  • 203

  • 12
  • Interference
  • 223

  • Notes
  • 241

  • References
  • 287

  • Index
  • 317


The Tuning of Place is impressively well documented Coyne’s book provides a valuable interdisciplinary resource for anyone interested in the influence of digital media on social interaction.” — Catherine Guastavino, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology


"Richard Coyne has found in the idea of 'tuning' a powerful metaphor for the many ways in which we continuously adjust ourselves to our environments and each other. Coyne's analysis is as sensitive and delicate as the processes it tracks. Knowledgeable, but accessible, written with clarity, wit, and grace, the book is animated by its appreciation of the intimate ingenuities of the tap, the tip, the fix, the fit, the tweak, the nudge, and all the other miniature acts of alignment and sizing up that keep us in place in a shifting world. Scanning the many devices and systems that have become part of our lives, Richard Coyne has mapped out an entire ecology of everyday digital tactics and interactions."
Steven Connor, Academic Director, London Consortium, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, UK